Friday, June 3, 2011

The North Slope

I'm sure a few of you are wondering how I went from talking about the heat of Arizona to driving on ice roads! Then there's the fact that several family members have been lovingly hounding me to post pictures of my latest adventure. Plus I finally feel a bit more caught up on my school work means that I could update my blog!!

Welcome Home!

Well, Scott's home anyway - this is where he has spent a good part of the previous 3.5 years. Last month he mentioned in a phone call that the company was looking for medical coverage for the island for the shoulder season. What that means is they are finishing up an oil production facility on an island 3.5 miles offshore (this is a man made island). During the shoulder season transportation back and forth is limited and not always reliable. There is always a mid level provider at the on shore camp - but it could take anywhere from an hour to several days to get the patient to them. I will be here until June 27th. Where is here? Go to Google maps and put in: Oliktok Point, Alaska. Then pan out and look for Anchorage - then Seattle. We are a long way from no where.

This is the on shore production facility - aka OPP. It is operational; they are producing oil.

This is the other side of OPP - the tall structure is the drill rig. It moves and has been in use for quite a few years. To the left is the production facility. If I get enough interest I'll try to do a blog on what it takes to drill oil - more than you would think, believe me.

These are some kind of electrical mods - I took a picture because I thought they looked like a space craft out of Star Trek...

A view from the "bear hide" looking down onto a very busy pad. The orange building is called the "wif" and the long row of gray buildings are all well house's. The spot where all the cranes are parked will be where the drill rig sits.

Large crane moving a very expensive module. Everything around here is planned out, talked out and then executed; "plan your work, work your plan."

These are both salt water wells - farthest north water wells in the world is what I was told. Eventually they will have a water treatment plant in order to convert this to drinking water.

An oil well - actually an expensive hole in the ground right now. The white you see down there is ice. We were standing in a building with multiple wells.

Animals and people...

There are a few caribou that hang around the camp - I was told there are about 10% of the herd that don't migrate with the rest of them.

A fox hanging around camp.
The rule on the North Slope is: if you are caught feeding, honking at or in any way harassing the animals it is ground for immediate termination. You will be put on the next plane out of Deadhorse.

We got to work with each other for the first week - then I went to days. It's hard to get good pictures of the terrain but behind us is Spy Island - it's a small barrier island - beyond that is the Beaufort Sea. Right next to where we were standing is a shelter for the bear guards to watch because most of the time the polar bears come from the sea ice over the Spy island and then onto our island.

We had four days of sunshine and temperatures in the 40's so everything started melting. This picture was actually taken at the main camp on shore. I think one of the bosses put the life ring there to try to pass a hint that it was time to get some water drainage going.

Can't find a phone booth anywhere anymore...but then have one on an island offshore of the North Slope...go figure. :)

Over my right shoulder (to the left of the picture for some of my friends) is OPP. Over my left shoulder is the DEW line. I'm standing on the ice just off shore of SID. Behind OPP are OCC and NOC. Got that? I've had to learn a whole new language up here...

OPP = Oliktok Production Pad - the oil facility that was being built for the last few years

DEW - see next post

SID = Spy Island Development - the island that was built for another oil production field

OCC = Oliktok Construction Camp - our temporary home

NOC = Nikaitchuq Operating Camp - the permanent camp for the drillers and operators of OPP

There will be a test at the end of this blog.

On every one of those "warm" 40 degree days this guy pulled out his hammock on this lunch break and took a nap - doesn't he look comfy? I want one for my office...

This is the terrain on the North Slope. Flat and endless...there are no mountains until you get to the Brooks Range (and that's a long ways away...). If you see a commercial showing majestic mountains and talking about the North Slope - it's a trick.


The Ice Road - I can now say I commuted to work on an ice road!

The ice road didn't close until May 23rd - everyone who's been up on the slope for a while said that was the longest they'd ever seen it go. Towards the end they were keeping 1/2 of it covered up with snow in order to prolong it's life. I heard a rumor that for every day they were able to keep it open it saved the company somethinkg like $250,000...

This photo was taken from the camp looking back towards shore. The buildings in the distance are part of the "Dew line." The Distant Early Warning line for defense of the US.

Once the ice road was closed this was our new commuter vehicle to work. I catch the bus at 0430 for a short ride to the boat ramp - depending on the wind it's about a 10 minute ride out to the island. At 1730 (530pm) I catch the hovercraft for the ride back to shore.

The back of the hovercraft - it's a pretty comfortable ride.

The cockpit of the hovercraft - the captain steers with pedals that are on the ground.

People, equipment, waste and water are all hauled back and forth.
(no running fresh water or anywhere for sewer to go on the island at this point)

The alternate/evacuation vehicle. This fancy piece of equipment is called an ARCTOS - it can hold 54 people. Scott was trained on how to drive it and his comment was it was a combination of driving the jeep and the RV with a trailer on it (the two vehicles are actually connected).
If you ask him about it you will get an hour long dissertation on all the cool things it can be prepared. :)

The cockpit of the arctos.

I think I took this picture at around 11pm...

I thought I'd include this in transportation even though it won't happen until there is open water. ENI bought a new barge this year in order to take freight out to the island. It was new so it had to be certified by the Coast Guard. They didn't want to wait until open water season and be delayed so they dug out a large hole (I couldn't seem to get a picture of the huge chunks of ice they had to move) and then filled it with water. I'm thinking it is one of the most expensive ponds in the US...